Sierra Leone: Western Area District Profile (3 December 2015)

Context: The district is located predominantly around the peninsula in the Western Area of Sierra Leone. The Freetown peninsula consists of three roughly parallel ranges of highlands that are narrow, but extend about 30 km south of Freetown. The hills and mountains in the highlands rise from 200 m to 1 000 m above the low-lying narrow coastal area. As the rest of the country has a tropical climate with two pronounced seasons: a wet season from May to October, and a dry season from November to April. Rainfall in this area is 3,000 to 4,000 mm per year. The Rural District capital is located in the city of Waterloo. The agricultural sector comprising food crops, fisheries, livestock, and forestry sub-sectors are the backbone of Sierra Leone’s economy. Nearly two-thirds of the population depends on the agriculture sector for their livelihoods. Major protected areas are forest reserve, with a large cross section of biodiversity resources.

Education: Education in Sierra Leone is legally required for all children; six years at primary school level; and three years in junior secondary school. A shortage of schools and teachers has made implementation impossible, although the number of children in primary education has greatly increased since the end of the civil war in 2002. Recently, the outbreak of Ebola led to the closure of schools for a prolonged period from July 2014 to April 2015. By October, 2015, 540 schools were open in Western Rural district. Sierra Leone has a low level of literacy among adults with only 37.1% of adults literate in 2006.

Food Security: As a result of poor yields, even in rural areas, three quarters of the population rely on markets for access to food. Poverty and the exposure to international food price volatility are the underlying causes of vulnerability in Sierra Leone. The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak has further eroded the livelihoods of both affected and non-affected communities. The total number of people who are food insecure in Western Rural Area is estimated at 53,116 and the percentage of households who are food insecure (severe and moderate) is 22.0%. The prevalence of food insecurity remains below the national average.

Health: The District Health Management Team (DHMT) has a total of 317 registered staff medical and non-medical staff working in health facilities in Western Area. The facilities available in Western Rural Area are: 12 Community Health Centers (CHC), 20 Community Health Posts (CHP), 21 Maternal Child Health Post s (MCHP) and 1 hospital. Traditional medicine forms part of the primary health care system in Sierra Leone.

Ebola Emergency: Western Rural reported the last two Ebola cases on 20 April 2015. Prior to this Ebola transmission was intense and the area was considered the “hotspot” of the West African outbreak. The cumulative number of confirmed cases is 1,164 for the area.

Water and Sanitation: Access to safe drinking water in the rural areas has remained considerably low over the last two decades, fluctuating between 26% and 35% during 1990-2008, before rising to 48% over the next two years to 2010. The sanitation situation remains poor, with rural access to improved sanitation at 9% over the last two decades. The depletion of economic and social infrastructure, combined with the deterioration in levels, access, and quality of social services during this time placed Sierra Leone in a very fragile position. In 2010, almost a fifth of rural water points were reported as broken. The Water Point Mapping in 2012 reported that 18% of existing water points across the country was broken, while another 14% are partly damaged and currently dysfunctional. Many communities, especially the rural poor, depend on streams and swamps to gather their water; many of these dry up during periods of severe drought. During the rainy season, floods can overwhelm existing systems, contaminating drinking water, and creating sewerage overflows.

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